In Matthew 22, when a Pharisee asked Jesus which was the greatest commandment, He reduced the commands of the Old Testament to one simple word: Love. This word goes in two directions: vertical and horizontal—God and our neighbor. For the scholars of His time to have a Galilean carpenter turned rabbi simplify their whole system just like that was absurdly simplistic. Yet that was exactly what Jesus meant to do.
What is at the top of God’s wish list for us? What is that commandment which overshadows all the others? It is a Greek word, “agape,” which translated, is “love.” Jesus calls us into a deep love affair with God, who loved us first (1 John 4:19), and into loving our near and far neighbors (both believers and unbelievers) in the same way we would want to be loved. This devotional plan on John 15 is an in-depth exploration of how to purposely and passionately love and pursue these three great relationships. In this portion of Scripture, we find how to love well in each direction.
This passage of Scripture can help us organize and prioritize things in our lives. It is simple, and at the same time, it is extraordinarily powerful. It follows a very specific sequence. We move from a full life of love in Christ to overflowing with this love for believers and then for unbelievers. It helps us discover the life that satisfies deepest, as Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage, told his friend Donatus about Christians: “[They are] good people who have learned the great secret of life. They have found a joy and wisdom which is a thousand times better than any of the pleasures of our sinful life.”
It also helps us learn about the significance of our lives. We discover how to make our lives count for eternity and not just in time. Our great calling in life is to be a conduit of the love of God from heaven to people on earth. We reach up to heaven and abide in Christ, and at the same time, we reach out to earth and love our near neighbor, and love and bear witness to our far neighbor.
I encourage you to love in both directions today and make tomorrow a repeat day of today.